GM spells car trouble | Front Porch | Indy Week
Pin It

GM spells car trouble 

I was conceived in a turquoise 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air, the same car whose tail fins and chrome framed my parents in a wedding photograph and that, nine months later, rushed my laboring mother to the hospital.

I was born in Anderson, Ind., about a mile away from one of the town's General Motors plants. My father—and his father, his mother, his brother, my great-aunt, my maternal grandmother and my sister—worked there for more than 30 years. We were a General Motors family who drove General Motors cars and whose lives centered on a General Motors town.

At first, my dad worked the night shift on GM's assembly line. He wore brown, steel-toed shoes and carried a black steel lunch box. Each evening, my mother stuffed it with four sandwiches—two meat, two peanut butter—and tucked a love note between them. He would come home at 1 in the morning. Occasionally I would get out of bed to crawl into his lap while he relaxed in his rocking chair. He smelled of oil, sweat and metal, like when change gets hot in your pocket. He was eventually promoted to a white-collar job as a mechanical engineer. He smelled like aftershave, but not as good as when he worked on the line.

As a GM family, we marked time by our cars, humanized by the names we gave them or the way we'd pat their dashboard in cold weather. My mom learned to drive a stick shift in the red 1964 Impala, my brother and me strapped in flimsy car seats in back, our necks flopping like we were stuffed animals. She became a good driver: One night, she was behind the wheel of the red 1968 Chevelle, a powerful car whose engine roared like Middle Earth, when suddenly she hit the brakes. Out of the darkness, a train. The crossing had no lights, no crossbar—only a deafening blackness that missed us by inches.

We kids often rode in the bed of the black 1972 El Camino to Kilbuck Park, a place reserved for GM employees and their families. Many summers, we lay on a hill and watched the fireworks on the Fourth of July. There were thousands of us, GM families in GM cars in a GM town. Like the factories and employees, the park's gone now. GM abandoned Anderson, gutting the town of its bars and hamburger stands. The sprawling factories were razed, leaving the land so polluted that weeds refuse to grow.

My dad gave everything to GM. Years passed without his taking a sick day. In return, we got a middle-class life. Now, GM is bankrupt, but he's not. He's a planner who socked away extra money from his paychecks for additional life insurance and health insurance. But now he's getting a pension, but little else.

Although GM abandoned my dad, he still buys their cars, including a 1995 Geo Metro he purchased for my 30th birthday. I named it the Bug. After its odometer turned 100,000, I sold the Bug to a friend for a dollar. When I drove away in my Honda, I wondered if it felt betrayed, too.

Latest in Front Porch

Comments (3)

Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Front Porch

  • One vote

    • Nov 12, 2014
  • Box of one

    Was I paying to be helped or to feel important, a bona fide expert on only myself?
    • Sep 24, 2014
  • The Old South (Hills)

    The Old South (Hills)

    • Sep 17, 2014
  • More »


Twitter Activity

Most Recent Comments

'Anna Lee' is a truly beautiful song, Ms Dossett. And I love Levon Helm's rendition. You are blessed with a …

by Byron Miller on A song for Levon (Front Porch)

Just now seeing this....Liz and I were super close friends in the early 80s. She was so special. I had …

by RoBert 1 on In memoriam: Liz Holm, 1959–2013 (Front Porch)

Nobody will be surprised to learn that Hocutt never went to Nam. He was in the Navy but washed out …

by Jefflenter on Raleigh bad boy no more (Front Porch)

I see his concern. Yes, it was a well written story and showed his caring side for sure. But not …

by Linda Bates Terrell on Motorcycle men (Front Porch)

Follow-up to my "nervous mom" comment. The last coupe of weeks we have been in many situations with individuals that …

by paulapowers on Governor's School blues (Front Porch)

Comments

'Anna Lee' is a truly beautiful song, Ms Dossett. And I love Levon Helm's rendition. You are blessed with a …

by Byron Miller on A song for Levon (Front Porch)

Just now seeing this....Liz and I were super close friends in the early 80s. She was so special. I had …

by RoBert 1 on In memoriam: Liz Holm, 1959–2013 (Front Porch)

Most Read

© 2016 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation